MAHOPAC – Less than a year after several students were suspended for posting racist tweets following a high school boys basketball game against Mount Vernon, the district is investigating charges that at least one player directed racial slurs at a Carmel player last week.
Action was taken against one or two students, Mahopac Interim Superintendent of Schools Brian Monahan said Tuesday, but he declined to reveal whether any players had been suspended from the team or from school.
“The language that was reported to me concerns me,” he said, confirming it was racial in nature.
Monahan, who reported speaking to Carmel school officials and the mother of the alleged victim, said more action might be taken after he receives a letter from the other district, delineating what occurred.
“We are taking it seriously,” he said.
Carmel Deputy Schools Superintendent Andy Irvin said Thursday he had been told that a Mahopac player had used the n-word multiple times on the court. He also said he believed the Carmel player had also been physically targeted.
“There were elbows thrown in the head and face area. I don’t put this in the same category as racial slurs but we don’t want this to happen, either,” he said.
He noted that Carmel has requested a third official be added to next week’s game between the two schools. Irvin said he believed this would also give players “peace of mind.”
Irvin characterized the last game, which was played at Carmel, as rough and noted that three Mahopac players and one from Carmel fouled out.
He suggested that, if an official believes he hears a racial slur, the game should be stopped and both coaches spoken to with a technical foul and/or ejection possibly assesssed. He said that, if the behavior continued, the next step might be for officials to order a forfeit.
“I do believe Mahopac, as a district, starting from the superintendent, (has) taken this very seriously,” he said.
In a letter to Mahopac families on Thursday, Monahan wrote: “These allegations would be troubling anyplace; I know they are especially troubling to the residents of this community.”
Monahan, who joined the district at the beginning of the school year, characterized as positive Mahopac’s efforts to educate the student body following last year’s widely circulated racist tweets after a season-ending loss to Mount Vernon, whose team was primarily African-American.
“I don’t think this is an issue where you take a pill and you’re cured,” he said. “I think it (the education) has had a positive impact on the vast majority of students but that doesn’t mean that one or two did not get the message and did not make mistakes.”
Carmel coach John Venditto said last week that his player and the player’s parents met with Athletic Director Ed Cook and high school Principal Lou Riolo about the incident.
Venditto reported he had not heard anything racist being said by Mahopac players but that, during the game, “Some guys were saying they were hearing some things.”
Mahopac coach Kevin Downes, who is African-American, resigned after last year’s season, describing himself as “heartbroken” over the tweets.
As for the latest allegations, Downes, a former Mahopac player who now coaches Yorktown’s team, said, “If those things are true, I’d be very, very hurt and disappointed.”